Methods For Salvaging Data From A Broken Hard Drive

Broken Hard Drive

If you have a broken hard drive, the very first thing you should do is make a clone of it. Everything else you try to do is likely to be fruitless until you have an identical copy of the drive that you can work on. If your hard drive is clicking, beeping or making other strange noises, do NOT attempt to boot it.

If you have a hard drive failure, there are two distinct situations. One is that the drive will spin up and you can hear it trying to read, but it won’t start. In that case, you need professional help from a data recovery service If you’re in a major metropolitan area, you may be able to find one that can recover data from any kind of media, including hard drives and flash memory. Expect to pay $500 or more though.

If your hard drive starts but isn’t recognized by your computer or shows up with zero capacity in Windows Explorer, then there could be hope for a do-it-yourself solution. The first step is to figure out what’s wrong with the drive. If it isn’t recognized by Windows or Mac OS X at all, then the drive has probably failed physically and there’s little you can do about it other than send it off to a service like DriveSavers Data Recovery, who specialize in recovering data from broken hard drives. However, if the drive is spinning up and seems fine, the best way to diagnose it is with a bootable CD called Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD).

You burn this ISO image file to a CD which then contains programs that run outside of Windows and can help diagnose.

It’s happened to everyone: you’ve got a hard drive with important files on it that won’t boot or has crashed. Now what? Here are a few tips on how to salvage your data.

The hard drive is dead. It is not slightly broken or making funny noises: it is dead. The drive does not spin up, the actuator arm does not move.

This particular hard drive was an IBM Deskstar 60GXP, 60 GB of capacity and 4200 RPM. It is a 3.5 inch ATA-100 drive, model IC35L060AVV207-0. This drive has been in use since May 2001, so it has been going strong for almost three and a half years now. It has been used as a data drive, not to boot Windows XP (the C: partition).

The symptoms were that the hard drive was simply gone on bootup, nothing there. No spinning up, no seek noises, nothing.

I tried the standard procedure which involves removing the hard drive from the PC case and placing it in a freezer bag overnight, then freezing it for 24 hours and putting it back into the PC while still frozen (the so called “freezer trick”). The symptom remained identical: no seek noise at all from the actuator arm even though the disk was spinning up when powered up (you could feel it vibration slightly).

I then concluded that the head actuator arm on this hard drive was definitely broken.

I have a dead hard drive that contains important files that I need to access. What can I do? This is a question we get all the time at Backblaze, and it’s a question that has many different answers.

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